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Who Bought Our Government?


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A look at who uses money to influence politics, how that money is used, and how much money is spent.

A look at who uses money to influence politics, how that money is used, and how much money is spent.

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  • 1. Who Bought Our Government? A Look At How Money Talks Edward Ehlert November 12, 2011
  • 2. Who Bought Our Government?
    • US politics is massively influenced by money
    • Several ways for money to influence
      • Interest Groups
      • Lobbyists
      • Political Action Committees (PACs)
      • 527s
  • 3. Interest Groups
    • Often referred to as special interest groups, pressure groups , and lobby groups.
    • Represent a wide variety of special interests
      • Political (Democratic & Republican politics & individual candidates)
      • Economic (Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO)
      • Religious (Christian Coalition, Freedom From Religion)
      • Moral (Focus on the Family)
      • Social Movements (Human Rights)
  • 4. What Do Interest Groups Do?
    • Educate – Inform public of relevant issues & laws, proposed & existing
    • Organize – Demonstrations, Get out the vote, other special events
    • Watchdog – Oversight of government and industries, report to membership
    • Lobby – Directly influence politicians
      • Not all interest groups lobby, though
      • IRS-designated distinction between lobbying and advocacy
  • 5. Influential Interest Groups
    • American Israeli Lobby (AIPAC)
      • “ Most influential lobby impacting US relations with Israel” (New York Times)
    • Center for Auto Safety
    • Greenpeace
    • National Rifle Association (NRA)
    • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
    • Sierra Club
  • 6. Special Interest Money
    • Raise money through donations
      • Donors aren't only members; there are plenty of “free riders!”
    • Use money to help get sympathetic candidates elected
      • Direct donation to campaign
      • Endorsement advertisements
      • Attack advertisements on opponents
      • Most groups are not affiliated with campaigns to avoid spending limits
  • 7.  
  • 8.  
  • 9. Lobbying
    • Origin of the Term
      • Gathering of members of British Parliament & peers in the lobbies of Houses of Parliament before & after debates. (BBC)
      • Ulysses S. Grant described political “wheelers & dealers” that frequented the lobby of Willard Hotel to meet him there, where he often had cigars & brandy. (NPR)
  • 10. Lobbying
    • Definition
      • to solicit or try to influence the votes of members of a legislative body
    • How does it differ from general advocacy?
      • Direct Lobbying - Lobbyists ask legislators or the employees of a legislator directly to take a stance on a specific legislation, whether or not it has already been introduced
      • Grassroots Lobbying – Interest group urges general public to take action on legislation, often to contact legislators
  • 11. What Do Lobbyists Do?
    • Explain issues & viewpoints of organization & persuade legislators to pass favorable legislation
    • Relays information back to organization
    • Write legislation
    • Act as “whips” (enforce party voting loyalty)
    • Can influence the courts
      • File amicus curiae (friend of the court), offering unsolicited testimony that can be admitted by the court, regarding a case that affects a law
      • NAACP filed amicus curiae in 1950s that helped overturn segregation laws
  • 12. When Lobbying Goes Wrong
    • Jack Abramoff Indian Lobbying Scandal
      • Jack Abramoff & Michael Scanlon worked for Native American casino interests
        • Over-billed clients $85 million, secretly splitting profits
        • Orchestrated with Ralph Reed & Grover Norquist to lobby against own clients to force them to pay more for lobbying services
      • Illegally gave gifts (fancy dinners, trips, etc) & campaign donations for votes & support using ill-gotten funds
      • Lobbyists linked directly & indirectly to representatives from both parties (2/3 Republican, 1/3 Democrat).
  • 13.  
  • 14.  
  • 15. The Revolving Door
    • Former federal employees, staffers, & representatives become lobbyists, & in turn lobbyists become employees, staffers, & even representatives
    • Lawmakers-turned-lobbyists used privileges for access to “members only” areas of House & Senate, including the floors & House gym
    • Often use revolving door privileges to award their firm or employer special contracts & legislation
    • Today, former government officials must wait an arbitrary amount of time before using the “revolving door,” although this rule usually does not apply to high-level officials (ie Dick Cheney, Karl Rove)
  • 16.  
  • 17. Political Action Committees (PACs)
    • Definition
      • A private group organized to elect political candidates or to advance the outcome of a political issue or legislation.
    • PACs designation for the receiving or spending of $1,000 or more
    • Necessary for an interest group, union, or corporation to contribute to candidates & parties.
      • Corporations & unions cannot contribute directly under law, but can sponsor PACs & cover administration & fundraising costs.
  • 18. PAC Contribution Limits
    • Individual contributions are limited to $5,000 per year
    • Affiliated PACs (corporate, union) can only solicit contributions from their members (“restricted class”)
      • Independent PACs can solicit from general public, but must cover costs with those contributions & cannot be sponsored by a corporation or union
    • PACs not coordinated with a candidate's campaign are not limited by federal law
  • 19. Types of PACs
    • Connected PACs – Majority of PACs, formed by corporations, unions, etc. Can only receive money from “restricted class.”
    • Non-connected PACs – Fastest growing of PACs, include single-issue & ideological groups. Can receive money from from any individual, PAC, or organization.
    • Leadership PACs – Created by member of Congress to support other candidates. Classified as non-connected PACs. Cannot directly support campaigns, but can cover administrative costs like travel, consultants, polling, etc.
    • Super PACs – Spawned from Citizens United , aka “independent expenditure committees.” Can raise unlimited funds from any individual, corporation, or union. Cannot coordinate with parties or campaigns and must disclose names of donors.
  • 20. Citizens United v. FEC
    • Ruling in 2010, allows corporations & unions to legally contribute funds to “independent expenditures.”
      • Includes advertisements that call for the election or defeat of a candidate while not being coordinated with any candidate or party
    • Speechnow v. FEC used Citizens United logic to remove limits on “independent expenditure committees.”
  • 21.  
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  • 26. 527s
    • Named after Subsection 527 of IRS code
    • Created to influence election of candidates on all levels of government (not just federal)
    • Tax exempt
    • No contribution limits or restrictions on who can contribute
    • Must file with IRS, disclose donors, and file reports on contributions & expenditures
    • Cannot advocate for specific candidates or coordinate with a campaign
    • Used primarily to raise money for issue advocacy & GotV efforts
  • 27. 527s
    • Many PACs have a 527 wing
    • Famous 527s include:
      • Republican & Democratic Governors Associations
      • Citizens United
      • American Crossroads
      • National Education Association
      • Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
      • Club for Growth
      • EMILY's List
  • 28.  
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  • 32. Conclusion
    • There's many ways for those with money influence politics
    • Both political parties play the game
    • No one person has bought our government. Instead, the wealthiest Americans (and in many cases, foreigners) pour money into interest groups, lobbyists, PACs, and 527s.
    • Some hide behind anonymity, others bask in plain sight.
    • What conclusion have YOU made regarding the numbers?
  • 33. Sources
    • for all statistical graphs & lists
    • The following Wikipedia pages (sources examined to ensure validity)
      • Advocacy groups
      • Lobbying
      • Lobbying in the United States
      • Revolving Door (politics)
      • Political Action Committees
      • 527 organization
      • Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal